"Oh, But I Take Medicine for That" – Do You Really Understand the Medicines You Take?

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By Lisa Adams

 

I can’t begin to count how many times I have been in the process of collecting a patient's or family member’s medical history when they tell me they have a disorder/disorder such as reflux or diabetes, then proudly announce “oh, but I take medicine for that” OR “but I take _________ (insert an oral blood sugar medication or a stomach acid reducer)” as if to declare that this particular disease or disorder is no longer a “problem” because they take medicine for it.

 

There were many days in my 29+ year career when it took every ounce of willpower I had NOT to launch into a commentary about what exactly that medicine and disease was doing to their body. Not to mention how the medication was NOT fixing the disease/disorder, but only directed at managing a symptom of the disease/disorder.

 

The sad reality I saw as a nurse working in our healthcare system is that MOST people do not understand how the medication they are taking works…not in the least.

Nor do they understand the physiology of their disease (how it affects their entire system). This was my biggest pet peeve while working in a busy hospital! If we as healthcare providers do not educate people about the physiology of their disease or disorder, we aren’t giving them a fighting chance. We are failing them.

 

With any situation or challenge in life, if we do not understand HOW and WHY we got there, it is difficult to change or correct the situation. This is where we find ourselves in this current atmosphere called our “healthcare system”. What I saw and participated in was a “symptom-management system” and a “cleanup on aisle 5 system”. We either fix the current and/or immediate catastrophe in the person’s body…created by the disease state, and send them on their way. Or we give them medication(s) to address bothersome, or aggravated symptoms of their disease state. Little to nothing is done to investigate the root cause, we simply do not have time to dig into all of that…we are too busy! There is very little education or attention directed at how to create and maintain a state of wellbeing, or actually prevent illness/disease. All energy and attention is directed at stopping (turning off) or managing (making it less bothersome) a symptom created by said disease. As you might expect, this creates a nice carousel or revolving door scenario where patients are continually jumping on and jumping off when symptoms become “manageable” OR “unmanageable”.

 

Let’s look first at what is a SYMPTOM anyway and why is it important? The definition of a symptom according to Merriam-Webster is this: subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance or broadly: something that indicates the presence of bodily disorder. A symptom is literally a message from our body that something is not right. It is our body saying “Hey, I need some attention here!” or “I am struggling to maintain.” For example, a symptom of reflux can be chronic indigestion. Digestion is a routine, daily bodily function we rely on for nutrition and immune support. If we suddenly (or gradually) experience difficulty digesting, wouldn’t we want to know WHY this is happening? Again, indigestion is simply a symptom of a bigger problem…a message from our body telling us SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT. Knowing this, why on earth would we want to SHUT OFF or STOP this message?

 

Let’s compare this to how one might care for their vehicle. Our cars, trucks or vans are very important to most of us because we rely on them to transport us from one place to another, such as work, grocery shopping, school and medical appointments. If our vehicle is not functioning or running well, this creates a significant challenge for us to go about our lives on a daily basis. Knowing this, when the “check engine” light or “low oil” light comes on in our vehicle, we know we need to take action because this is a warning that the vehicle needs urgent attention or it may not continue running! It would be foolish or irresponsible to just cover up the “check engine” light and keep driving until your car's engine seized up and left you stranded right? Yet, our body gives us WARNING signs and we don’t think twice about shutting them off and expecting the body to continue functioning for us!

 

THIS is part of the reality we currently find ourselves in with the existing healthcare system. Covering up symptoms or messages from the body only leads to allowing

the underlying issue to grow more and more out of control, until it finally becomes an urgent Issue requiring more intense and costly treatment, including possibly an ER visit and/or hospitalization! I have seen it happen over, and over again for years.

 

This is also why today, Americans are still dying from most of the same top 10 diseases that we were dying of 25-30 years ago. Yet we are spending $3 trillion dollars MORE on healthcare costs…something isn’t working!

 

According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control), in 1998 the top 10 leading causes of disease in the U.S. were;

  1. Heart Disease

  2. Cancers

  3. Stroke

  4. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

  5. Accidents

  6. Pneumonia/Influenza

  7. Diabetes

  8. Suicide

  9. Kidney Disease

  10. Chronic Liver Disease

Also according to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control), in 2020 the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. were;

  1. Heart Disease

  2. Cancers

  3. Covid

  4. Accidents

  5. Stroke

  6. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

  7. Alzheimer's Disease

  8. Diabetes

  9. Influenza/Pneumonia

  10. Kidney Disease

Interestingly, the cause of most of these diseases can be traced back to INFLAMMATION of tissue. When body systems and tissues (internal and external) are repeatedly exposed to irritation, whether this be from food, medication or environmental toxins, this repeated exposure creates inflammation. Think of this like having a scratch on your finger that won’t heal because you continue to bang it up against things over and over as you try to use our hands throughout the day. This irritation becomes chronic, meaning our body experiences this on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. When this happens, as hard as our body may try to heal itself, this chronic inflammation causes cells to start to change…this is when DISEASE begins to form.

 

Our body is completely and totally designed to create AND fight inflammation as needed to heal and protect itself. Unfortunately, when our system is unable to “catch up” so to speak, from the constant barrage of irritation/inflammation, tissues and systems begin to struggle and eventually break down. This causes a domino effect to surrounding tissues and systems as ALL of our body’s systems rely on one another to function properly.

 

Now that we know:

  • Our body is an innately intelligent, self-regulating system that sends us messages to alert us that “something is not right.”

  • We are still dying of the same top 10 diseases we were dying of 25 years ago, yet spending TRILLIONS of more dollars on “healthcare” today.

  • MOST of the top 10 diseases we are dying of today can be linked to chronic INFLAMMATION…heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease and diabetes.

  • MANY medications, both prescribed and over the counter, simply cover up or mask symptoms of a much bigger, underlying problem.

 

What can we do about it?

 

The word is PREVENTION…prevent the irritation, prevent the inflammation, prevent the need for medication!

  • Know why you are taking medication and what it does (exactly) to your body. Ask yourself “am I taking this to cover up a symptom/message” OR am I taking this to heal a bigger issue? What are other options I have to heal or correct this disease process such as diet, natural plant products, managing stress or REST? Do you fully understand the disease process you are taking the medication for? Ask questions, read labels and understand that EVERY medication that has an effect or action, has “side effects” that can often be more troublesome than the desired action, thus creating another problem for you.

  • Get at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep every 24 hours! Our body fights inflammation and heals tissue during our sleep cycle. This is basically when our immune system powers back up, much like plugging in your cell phone to recharge it, or keeping gas and oil in your car.

  • Eat WHOLE FOODS. Try to eat foods that grow from a tree or come from the ground, such as fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts/seeds. These foods should preferably be in their original form when you consume them vs. coming from a package, box or can. Every bit of processing done to our food depletes nutrients in some way. If you can’t find or buy these things fresh, the next best option is frozen. Try to source your meat and dairy products from animals that are grass/pasture or free range fed. This means they are fed naturally as much as possible vs. feeding them packaged/processed foods that come from genetically modified seeds and grains. Make sure that the fish and seafood you eat is wild caught vs. farm raised for the same reasons. FOOD IS MEDICINE and everything we consume is absorbed and processed via our digestive system. If this system is chronically inflamed, it can’t do its job which is protecting us from toxins and fueling our body/immune system.

  • Drink at least ½ of your body weight in ounces of water every day! For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should drink at least 90 ounces of water per day. Our body is composed of 60-70% water, so you can imagine how cells/organs and systems struggle to function when we are not fully hydrated. Hydration is also key in helping our body detox and get rid of waste.

  • Limit your exposure to environmental toxins such as known chemicals/fumes, radiation and EMF (electromagnetic fields) from cell phones, computers and other hand-held electronic devices that are often on or near your body. MANY of these toxic materials surround us in our homes…cleaning supplies and laundry detergents/softeners, personal care products with heavy perfumes such as body wash, lotion, shampoo, makeup and deodorant/anti-perspirant.

  • FINALLY limit your exposure to STRESS. Chronic exposure to stress creates tension throughout our body and affects EVERY body system. This includes our joints and muscles, our digestive system, all of our hormones, reproductive system, and most importantly, our IMMUNE SYSTEM.

When your body sends you messages (and it will), practice listening…what is it telling you? Are you getting what you need? Water, rest, nutrition, quiet, connection? If you are not getting what you need, ask yourself WHY? What can I do about this situation? These simple steps of awareness can prevent the cycle of chronic irritation and inflammation which eventually lead to DIS-EASE and possibly the need for medication.

 

Show references

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/symptom

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lead1900_98.pdf

 

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